CVs are incredibly subjective and no two clients would ever completely agree on exactly how a CV should be presented. The recommendations here are based on our general experience of clients’ feedback, with several of the tips listed being absolutely essential.
CVs should be seen as a front door. When passed on to a client they should read it and then want to open the door to find out more. Put simply, a CV should be seen as being the first step of the selection process and will decide whether you progress to the all-important job interview.
Here are some useful tips to maximise the chances of that interview happening:
- The first rule. Clients are often inundated with CVs, especially for senior roles, and the ‘no’ pile will be quickly populated with those CVs sporting clear typos and formatting errors. We would also advise against adding your photo to a CV (unless it’s for a modelling role!). They add very little value and, more often than not, the image provided is either pixelated or grainy.
- How to start your CV? Simple, with your name. Thereafter, we strongly recommend your address – we don’t really understand why someone might have a problem in sharing this – and then of course a contact number and email address. If you have put a ‘comical’ voice message on your mobile phone, remove it. Similarly, we would recommend you have a professional voice message recorded by you, rather than a network standard message. With reference to your email address, please ensure this is professional. email@example.com’t going to get you an interview!
- CV length? The standard answer to this is two pages; however, as you amass more experience, achievements and skills, there is no problem in going past this, provided it remains punchy and relevant.
- Adapt your CV. No two roles will have identical job descriptions, so it is essential that you tweak your CV based on the role you are applying for. For example, if there is a clear and prominent reference in the job description to excellent relationship management, then your CV should be tweaked to include this emphasis.
- Please don’t use text boxes and don’t send your CV to a recruiter in PDF format. Recruiters remove your personal details when they send them over to the client – this is just how recruiters work. So, allow us to do this easily by using a standard CV produced in a mainstream word-processing program.
- Put your most recent work experience at the top of the list. Recruiters and clients prefer to be able to zoom in on your current role without trawling through a list of jobs that you might have done over 10 years ago. Additionally, please format each role in a specific way. It should be job title, company name and the specific dates of employment, e.g. Head of Customer Service, ACME Solutions (July 1st 2018 – August 13th 2021).
- Make sure you have a Hobbies and Interests section. This often tells a client a lot about you and it might establish common interests, which could give you an advantage. Clients will often relate your hobbies and interests to how this might be useful in their workplace. So, for example, if you are captain of a sports team or head of a committee, there is clear reference to leadership. If you think you have no hobbies or interests, think again. Most people enjoy watching a certain genre of film, eating foods from around the world, reading or going for a walk. List these if all else fails.
- What file name should I call my CV? It sounds like a really silly thing to mention, but if I see a CV titled, ‘John Doe CV June 2022’ against ‘John Doe CV’, I might think to myself, how many other CVs has John Doe written in 2022? Is John Doe always looking for a new job? Is he a job hopper?
- References. We strongly recommend not detailing the contact particulars for your referees. It’s unlikely they will want their personal details bandied around, and clients will ask for this information if and when they start to get really interested in potentially offering you a role.
- Cover letter. If I am honest, 90% of the cover letters I receive are general. I get the same one week in, week out from one candidate, and so needless to say, I never read it anymore. Only ever do a cover letter if it is specific and relevant to the job, and please never just relist your career history. Address the cover letter to the specific person in the organisation who is leading on the recruitment of this role. Please avoid phrases like ‘esteemed recruiter’ and ‘hiring manager’ – these really annoy me and feel nonspecific.
- A FINAL NOTE ON CVs. PLEASE DO NOT WRITE THEM IN CAPITAL LETTERS ALL THE WAY THROUGH. Capital letters are generally used on work emails when someone is getting irritated about something and/or needs something doing immediately. Again, not a look you want to adopt.